Farai’s* mom emphatically said, “You will marry my cousin Wambua* and you must obey him, or you will die! Your half-sister disobeyed her spouse and ended up dying of an incurable disease.”
The cultural belief that preteen girls should marry in order to keep them from sexual promiscuity is prevalent in Farai’s West-African country. Custom forces them to marry men twice their age, and obedience to him is the only way to secure a long and happy life.
Trapped by tradition, Farai went from a playful schoolgirl to a wife overnight. Her days of gossiping with classmates and doing homework ended. Satisfying her husband’s needs, preparing meals, sweeping floors, and washing clothes became the new routine.
No one helped her navigate this transition. Her mother and grandmother distanced themselves from Farai, leaving her to stumble through her marriage alone. Over and over, the word “obey” came to the forefront of her mind. But, it was hard to submit to a man she feared and who dominated her. Broken and feeling helpless, she slipped into a deep depression.
Her sleep patterns changed. She lost her appetite, and she never left the house. With the only energy she had left, Farai cried out to a God she wasn’t sure existed.
“A Man I Can Obey”
Months passed. A childhood friend asked Farai to sneak out of her house to watch a movie at church. Excitement swelled within her, and she gladly agreed, making the first decision on her own since her wedding.
The movie and brochures passed out at the event spoke to her, so she determined to return to the church on Sunday. There the preaching touched something in her spirit, and a joy she had never known enveloped her. She learned that there is a God who loves her and could set her free.
In the next few weeks, Farai gave her life to Jesus. She was glad to follow someone who wanted to help her, not totally control her. “This is a man I can obey. If I mess up, He will still love me,” she thought.
When her parents noticed her out and about more, they asked the reason for the change. She announced that she was going to church. Angered, they hired a marabout, a holy man believed to have supernatural powers. He concocted “medicine” to put in her food and water. They hoped it would make her mentally or physically sick enough to deny Jesus and return to the ways of her family.
Before each mouthful, Farai prayed. God answered her prayers. He kept her healthy and even gave her greater strength. Feeling renewed, she determined to leave her husband and one day walked out of her house for the last time, or so she thought.
Farai had not been gone for 30 minutes when her husband approached her from behind. When she turned around, Wambua waved a knife in her face. Because she had been disobedient, she deserved to die.
“Jesus!” she shouted. Miraculously and without another word, Wambua did an about-face and walked away.
Several days after this incident, Wambua became seriously ill. Neither traditional medicine nor medical doctors were able to give him any relief. Farai offered to take him to the church for prayer. He agreed.
The pastor anointed Wambua with oil, and the congregation prayed for his complete healing in the name of Jesus. Worship filled the room. A warmth penetrated Wambua’s entire being as he watched the smiling faces. His sickness left, and the pain ceased. He joined a group who danced with his wife. After the rejoicing, he surrendered his own life to Christ.
Today, Wambua is a genuine Christian, and he and Farai serve the Lord together. As he follows and obeys Jesus, Farai gladly follows and obeys her husband. She also has made peace with her family, and a nephew and two cousins are now believers. Farai’s example demonstrates how a prayerful, reverent attitude toward a spouse can open the door to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in a marriage and a family.
*Names changed for security reasons